Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bro. Jerome Cincotta, SDB (1923-2013)

Bro. Jerome Cincotta, SDB (1923-2013)

Bro. Jerome “Jerry” Cincotta, SDB, died at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa on Friday morning, Oct. 25, 2013. He was 89 years old, 11 days short of turning 90, and had been hospitalized for a short time after breaking a hip. His director, Fr. Steve Ryan, was with him in his last hours and described his death as peaceful.

Bro. Jerry had resided at the Salesians’ St. Philip the Apostle Residence in Tampa since the fall of 2010.

Jerome Bartholomew Cincotta was born on Nov. 5, 1923, in Brooklyn, the son of Joseph and Mary Cincotta. He was baptized at the family’s parish church, St. Jerome’s in Brooklyn, on Dec. 2, and he was also confirmed there in 1934. He attended the parish grammar school from 1929 to 1937 and Boys High School in Brooklyn from 1937 to 1942.

Following his high school graduation, Jerry served in the U.S. Army during World War II, at least partly in the China-Burma-India theater, and was discharged in 1946. He had suffered an ear injury that considerably damaged his hearing and qualified him as disabled. He also came home with a medal from the Chinese government.

Jerry came to the Salesians at age 32 intending to become a brother. He entered as a candidate at Don Bosco Technical High School in Paterson, N.J., in September 1955, training as an auto mechanic. The following September he entered St. Joseph’s Novitiate in Newton, N.J., and he made his first profession of vows in Ellenville, N.Y., on Sept.8, 1957.

Newly professed Bro. Jerry returned to Don Bosco Tech in Paterson for another year of formation and professional training in 1957-1958, but apparently his future did not lie in auto mechanics. He was sent to the provincial residence in New Rochelle, N.Y., in 1958, where he served for the next 14 years at Salesiana Publishers/Don Bosco Films, among other responsibilities.

In 1972 Bro. Jerry was transferred to Don Bosco Technical High School in Boston as an assistant to the treasurer of the school and religious community. He then served as treasurer of the provincial residence community in New Rochelle from 1975 to 1980.

Bro. Jerry moved to St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Harlem in 1980 as a pastoral and financial assistant and remained there until 1985, when he was posted to St. Agnes Church on Grand Bahama Island for one year, also as a pastoral and financial assistant.

From 1986 to 2010 Bro. Jerry was on the staff of the Marian Shrine-Don Bosco Retreat Center at Stony Point-Haverstraw, N.Y., fulfilling numerous household responsibilities. His declining health led to his move to the Salesian retirement home in Tampa in 2010.

According to former provincial Fr. Jim Heuser, Bro. Jerry’s “deep spirit of prayer, generous spirit of work, and spirit of joy have enlightened his communities.”

Fr. Joe Boenzi of the San Francisco Province recalls that he “got to know Bro. Jerome some 15 years ago when I spent several weeks in your province. During that time I always looked forward to meeting and exchanging ideas and experiences with him. It was one of the highlights of that summer for me.”

Bro. Jerry's funeral was celebrated twice, once in Tampa and once at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw. He was buried in the province cemetery at Goshen, N.Y., on Nov. 6.

Salesian Brother Stephen Sandor, Martyr, Is Beatified

Salesian Brother Stephen Sandor, Martyr, Is Beatified

In the picturesque square in front of St. Stephen’s basilica in Budapest, Hungary, Stephen Sandor, Salesian brother and martyr of the faith, was declared blessed on Saturday, October 19.
The beatification liturgy was presided over by Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest. About 40 bishops concelebrated, along with numerous Salesians.

The Salesians’ procurator general, Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, gave a brief presentation of the life of Blessed Stephen. Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes and representative of the Pope, read the apostolic letter in which Stephen Sandor was declared Blessed.
In the letter the new Blessed is described as an exemplary educator and catechist of young people, following Don Bosco’s method of kindness. When the image of the newly beatified was uncovered, a painting and a few letters of Stephen Sandor were brought to the altar by Bro. Jean Paul Müller, treasurer general of the Salesians, and Fr. Abraham Bela, Salesian provincial in Hungary.

In his homily, Cardinal Erdo pointed out that the martyrdom of Stephen Sandor was the outcome of a political process that was designed to attack the Church, especially in its educational institutions.
Fr. Pascual Chavez then expressed his thanks on behalf of the whole Salesian Congregation.

The beatification Mass in St. Stephen's Square
Cardinal Amato also gave a talk in which he pointed out that the new Blessed has a threefold message for St. John Bosco’s sons: the faithful observance of consecrated life in joy, work, and community; the example of a committed educator, who was a highly professional typesetter and at the same time a teacher much loved by his students; martyrdom, as the supreme witness of faith, hope, and charity.
“Religious persecution creates a gulf between human beings, but the martyrs with their sacrifice build bridges of brotherhood, forgiveness, and acceptance. . . . Consecrated life is truly a white martyrdom, lived from day to day in fidelity to the Gospel and the charism of the congregation. A heroic gesture cannot be improvised,” said Cardinal Amato.

The celebration was marked by the presence of more than 8,000 people in the square, among them 3,000 young people from Salesian works and 600 from Szolnok, the birthplace of the new Blessed. Also present were Hungarian President Janos Ader, several parliamentary minister, and representatives of the city.

Stephen Sandor, upper right, with his family
Finally, about 300 Salesians were present, among them 5 bishops and 120 brothers. In addition to the Rector Major and Bro. Müller, other members of the general council included Fr. Adriano Bregolin, vicar of the Rector Major, Fr. Francesco Cereda, councilor for formation, and Fr. Marek Charzan, regional councilor for Northern Europe.

The next day, Sunday, October 20, Bishop Miklos Beer of Vac presided at a celebration of the Eucharist in Szolnok, Blessed Stephen’s birthplace. This was the final act of the official celebrations for the beatification. The parish  church was filled with worshippers. The solemnity of the celebration was highlighted by the presence of the Jubilate choir and the cameras of M1, the main Hungarian broadcaster, which transmitted the rite live.
Fr. Pascual Chavez gave the homily, which he based on the verse of St. John’s Gospel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces much fruit (John 12:24).”
The Rector Major said the life of the newly beatified was one of self-giving. He delivered his reflection in three points: first, he pointed out that not only Blessed Stephen’s martyrdom, his supreme act of faith, but his whole life, as well, was marked by a deep faith in Christ. His witness, in this Year of Faith, is a model for all Salesians.

Second, Fr. Chavez said that the figure of Stephen Sandor is a significant example of how faith can mature within the family, up to the highest level. Finally, the Rector Major referred to the more specifically Salesian aspects of the holiness of Blessed Stephen: a passion for education and zeal for the young, whom he wanted to feel loved and to be happy in time and eternity.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 20, 2013
Luke 18: 1-8
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.

“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18: 1).

Over the last 2 months, most of our gospel readings have included a parable:  guests at a wedding banquet; a man building a tower and a king preparing for war; the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost sons; an untrustworthy steward; a rich man and a poor beggar; a servant doing his duty.  The parables illustrate for us God’s mercy, our need to repent, our obligations toward one another, etc.

Today we hear a parable about prayer—constant, persistent, untiring prayer.

There are 2 characters in this parable, a judge and a widow.  They’re typical characters of ordinary life in Jesus’ time, not only in the Middle East but anywhere, and the scenario that Jesus describes could still take place in many places in the Middle East.  In fact, a late-19th-century traveler in Mesopotamia reports a scene remarkably like the one that Jesus has us imagine:

Immediately on entering the gate of the city on one side stood … a large open hall, the court of Justice of the place.  On a slightly raised dais at the further end sat the judge, half buried in cushions.  Round him squatted various secretaries and other notables.  The populace crowded into the rest of the hall, a dozen voices clamouring at once, each claiming that his cause should be the first heard.  The more prudent litigants joined not in the fray, but held whispered communications with the secretaries, passing bribes, euphemistically called fees, into the hands of one or another.  When the greed of the underlings was satisfied, one of them would whisper to the [judge], who would promptly call such and such a case.  It seemed to be ordinarily taken for granted that judgment would go for the litigant who had bribed highest.  But meantime a poor woman on the skirts of the crowd perpetually interrupted the proceedings with loud cries for justice.  She was sternly bidden to be silent, and reproachfully told that she came there every day.  “And so I will,” she cried out, “till the [judge] hears me.”  At length, … the judge impatiently demanded, “what does that woman want?”  Her story was soon told.  Her only son had been taken for a soldier, and she was alone, and could not till her piece of ground; yet the tax-gatherer had forced her to pay the impost, from which as a lone widow she could be exempt.  The judge asked a few questions, and said, “Let her be exempt.”  Thus her perseverance was rewarded.  Had she had money to fee a clerk, she might have been excused long before.[1]

In the Middle East honor is one of the highest values, and most people will do anything to preserve their honor and their family’s honor; bringing shame on the family or oneself is to be avoided at any cost.  But the judge in the parable is corrupt:  he “neither fears God nor respects any human being” (18:2).  Right and wrong, justice and impartiality mean nothing to him.  The Scriptures mean nothing to him—there is a long legal and prophetic tradition that mandates special care for orphans and widows.  He is utterly without shame, cares not a whit about his reputation, his honor.  We may well suspect that the widow can’t obtain “a just decision against [her] adversary” (18:3) because she has no money to offer as a bribe, or her adversary has offered more than she can.

The widow is a desperate woman.  That she shows up in court, that alone, shows how destitute and alone she is; her being in court is in itself something of a public scene.  As you know from current events, in most of the Middle East women have no place in public life.  Such as it is today, it was worse in ancient times.  This widow has no male in the family who can go to court for her and obtain a hearing.  Her only recourse is to show up in court day after day and create a scene. 

Credit: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Peru
Finally, after “a long time” (18:4), the corrupt judge feels that he must give in to her and render justice to her “lest she come and strike me” (18:5).  The Greek word that St. Luke uses here is a prizefighting term that means literally “to strike a blow under the eye,” or we might say, “to give a black eye.”  Metaphorically, it means to batter someone down, to wear someone out, and so most translations say something like, “she’s going to wear me out with her persistence.”  One commentator says the verse basically means, “lest she give me a headache!”[2]  The widow’s becoming a real pain in the neck.  Any parent who’s had to deal with kids in the days before Christmas, or with a 17-year-old wanting the car keys, can appreciate the judge’s situation.

So, Jesus says, because of the widow’s persistence the dishonest judge does what he should’ve done in the first place.  And Jesus applies that to our prayers to God:  “Won’t God secure the rights of his chosen ones [his elect] who call out to him day and night?” (18:7).  There are 2 suppositions there:  1st, God stands in contrast to the judge; he certainly is not corrupt or wicked.  2d, God’s chosen ones call out, i.e., pray, day and night, persistently, like the widow.  Picture St. Monica praying for years for the conversion of her son Augustine.  Picture Mother Teresa praying for years despite the interior emptiness and utter absence of God that she felt.

Now, what are God’s elect to pray for so persistently?  The widow sought justice or vindication against an adversary; the Greek word means “one opposing another’s right or justice.”  We, too, have an adversary who opposes our justice, or in Christian terms, our justification, our being made right in God’s eyes.  That adversary is Satan, a word that means “opponent” or “adversary.”  If we are to win out over this adversary, we must persist in prayer.  If we are to become just in God’s eyes, i.e., have our sins erased and be made clean and holy, we must persist in prayer, must “call out to God day and night” for mercy, for strength, for help.

We might have many particular prayers that we want to make to God—you can easily think of the many things you pray for.  Those, God does not necessarily guarantee to you that he will answer in the way you want.  (Spiritual writers will tell you that God will answer with what you need, not with what you want.)  But we all need, and I trust we all want, to reject our sins, to be forgiven, to be healed of the deepest wounds in our hearts.  We want to become holy and be saved, to be numbered among those whom we will celebrate in 13 days:  all the saints.  If we pray sincerely and persistently for God to come to us, to fill our hearts, to forgive us and make us whole, to put us and keep in a good relationship with him, “I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily” (18:8).  God earnestly desires our salvation—which is the entire purpose of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—so he cannot refuse our heartfelt prayer.

       [1] H.B. Tristram, Eastern Customs in Bible Lands (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1894), pp. 228-229, quoted in Kenneth E. Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), p. 134.
       [2] Bailey, p. 136.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Short Hike on the Long Path

Short Hike on the Long Path

Last Sunday and Monday (Oct. 13-14), I finally had another chance to "escape" into the woods, this time with Fr. Jim Mulloy and Jerry Gutierrez (Don Bosco Tech Paterson, Class of 2002).  I met up with them around 2:00 p.m. at Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, where Fr. Jim teaches.
Jerry at left, Fr. Jim just after our arrival at Stockbridge Shelter
Fr. Jim and I had both had morning Masses, which is an obvious reason for a fairly late start.  Another was that we expected the parking lots and the trails to be full of hikers out either for the fresh air of a fine early autumn day or for the start of the "foliage season," as well as lots of picnickers.  As you'll see in the photos, it was really early in the foliage season.

But the hikers definitely were out in force.  As we drove up Seven Lakes Drive from Sloatsburg toward Bear Mountain, Reeves Meadow's little parking lot was full, and there were scores of cars lined up on the highway shoulder.  The larger parking lots at Lake Skannatati and Lake Tiorati also were packed.  I wasn't too worried about the lot at Silvermine Lake and the Long Mountain Parkway lot along the Long Path, where we meant to leave our cars; those areas are crossed by only one trail each (unlike the other sites).

Sure enuf, there were lots of empty parking spaces at Silvermine, which is one of the larger lots in Harriman Park, besides.  So we parked the Prep's car there and went on to Long Mountain Pkwy, which is much smaller and had a couple of dozen cars, but still plenty of space.  And there we parked the provincial house car,
loaded up with our gear, and set out southward on the Long Path.  Our gear included tents in case we didn't get the Stockbridge Shelter, which was our destination, 2 miles down the trail.

I'd forgotten how many upward slopes there are in those 2 miles, but I think it's still an easier route than coming up from Silvermine, which, tho half a mile shorter, is almost all uphill.  Anyway, we had the trail to ourselves until we met about 10 day hikers coming up the trail, who told us the shelter had been empty when they passed by it.  That was encouraging!

About halfway to the shelter we came to a trio of hikers resting on some rocks off the trail.  We greeted each other, and we 3 moved on.  A short while later, I noticed that they were coming up the trail behind us, well laden with camping gear.  Naturally, we supposed that they too were heading for the shelter.  Since the shelters are first-come, first served, that didn't bode well.  (I also wondered why the day hikers hadn't mentioned meeting them on the trail.)

So, with a word from Fr. Jim, I went into overdrive, so to speak, hiking faster for the last half mile than I'd ever done before with full pack, including the steep ascent adjacent to the Cave Shelter (but being very careful about my footing, not carelessly hasty).  Whenever I glanced back up the trail, no one was in sight, not even Fr. Jim and Jerry.
The southward view from Stockbridge Shelter
So I reached the shelter and found it deserted.  Hurray!  I dumped my stuff on the platform (that felt good!) and went back out and up behind the shelter; still no sign of my companions.  Since I'd worked up a sweat and the air was on the cool side, I changed my shirt.  Finally, Fr. Jim and Jerry arrived.  Fr. Jim exclaimed to me, "You must live right!"  He may have been amazed at my hiking fortitude, but I think he meant that he couldn't believe no one was at the shelter; he really had expected someone to be there for the long weekend.

The shelter was unusually clean, and some previous camper had left a piece of a broom with which to sweep off the platform.  Someone also had left some wildflowers in a Sam Adams beer bottle in the back corner; I moved that out by the fireplace (see photo below) and on the morrow carried out the bottle with our trash and recyclables, plus a little bit that we did pick up.

Had we not gotten the shelter, we'd have pitched our tents somewhere on the ridge just north of the shelter, where there are many good spots.

We all went hunting for firewood, and as we were doing that the other 3 hikers came up.  They told me they were heading for Island Pond to camp, which, if true, meant they had another 5+ miles to hike and weren't likely to get there before dark.  But they stayed and chatted for a while before moving on.

Finding firewood bigger than kindling wasn't easy; the whole area had been well picked over and even a lot of standing trees, it appeared, cut down.  So we found only a few large pieces and a lot of kindling.  Both Jerry and I did some cutting of the larger pieces.  (A folding saw is invaluable for such work.  Forget about using a hatchet, and obviously you don't want to haul an ax with you.)

A couple of other hikers came up the Long Path, Koreans we judged, carrying full packs and leading (or being led by) a large dog.  They said they were just checking out the shelter but intended to tent camp in a nice spot just down the steep rise that leads up to the shelter from the south.

Fr. Jim and I prayed Evening Prayer, whose photocopied sheets then gave me a base on which to lay our fire in one of the shelter's 2 fireplaces.  On that base I set some of the tinder that I carry:  laundry lint, used cling-free sheets, candle drippings, small bits of wood.  A little after 5:00 p.m. I lit the fire.  One match was sufficient to start a fine blaze, easily fed by our store of kindling and then the slightly larger pieces.

I heated a can of soup on my camping stove, which Jerry and I shared.  When our coals were ready, I set up my little grill (on shelf at left, above) and laid out the hot dogs that I'd brought, and then some that Fr. Jim had brought.  We ate those with rolls and mustard, and Fr. Jim had cheese and chips.  I drank Crystal Lite, Fr. Jim had soda, and Jerry took water.  I offered tea, but there were no takers.  Jerry and I had oranges for dessert, and he'd also brought Oreos, which he and Fr. Jim partook of.  So we had a simple, satisfying supper, and even some leftovers.

By the time we'd cleaned up, the sun was setting in a western blaze of orange.  It was only 6:30 p.m.
That's Fr. Jim's backpack hanging from a rafter.
The setting sun struck a golden pattern over my bed.
It also offered a good look into the shelter's interior.

A fine half-moon rose, and Venus came out amid the clouds.  We sat and talked for a couple of hours, feeding the fire as needed, including with the big stuff.  Fr. Jim looked for stars, but it clouded over and eventually even the moon was obscured--peeking out now and then.  I'd brought reading material, but there really wasn't much light and when the others retired around 8:30--Fr. Jim to an outdoors pad such as he prefers--I didn't feel like reading.  So Jerry and I settled into our opposite corners, and soon he was snoring away!
Below the western side of the ridge on which the shelter is built, 
the setting sun lit up a carpet of scarlet flora
The weather stayed dry despite the clouds, and the temperature dipped into the 40s outside.  It was snug in the shelter.  I didn't sleep well, but that was because of the hard floor and my achy back, not because of the weather (or the snoring).  So I tossed and turned all nite, never comfortable and dozing off only now and then.

It seemed like it was barely dawn when Fr. Jim came in at 7:00 a.m., and Jerry got up.  So I followed.  The sun wasn't over the horizon yet, and it was still dark inside the shelter.  But after a quick wash-up, we celebrated Mass on the outer ledge of the fireplace, where there was daylight.

Fr. Jim had his customary breakfast of a bagel and water.  Jerry had a PB and J sandwich and the coffee that I offered, and I had oatmeal, a leftover hot dog, and a granola bar with coffee.  As usual, I was the last one to get packed up--the cooking gear as well as my 2 sleeping mats, bag, and the clothes that had been my pillow.

But around 8:15 a.m. we were on the trail, down the Long Path, steeply at first.  We waved to the 2 Koreans and their dog and proceeded a tenth of a mile to the Menomine Trail trailhead, marked not only with yellow blazes but also with a cairn.
A typical cairn--this one's at the intersection of the 1779 and Appalachian trails.
The Menomine Trail descends steadily until it reaches Lake Nawahunta.  There were touches of yellow in the woods, and lots of storm damage from Sandy a year ago as well as from other forms of natural violence.
As Fr. Jim had told me earlier, most of the colorful foliage is around the lakes.  Here's one view of Lake Nawahunta, where a flock of Canada geese have just landed.  (I couldn't get my camera ready quickly enuf to shoot them as they came in--darn!)
It was about 9:30 when we reached the Silvermine parking lot, a mile and a half down the Menomine Trail.  The lot was almost deserted--maybe four other vehicles. A pair of bicyclists at one of them were preparing to hit the road.

We were moderately tired from our excursion of about 20 hours, and contented with the relaxing break from our daily lives, the good weather that the Lord had provided, and of course a safely uneventful trip.  Thanks be to God!

I got home around 10:40 a.m., and after lunch was back to my regular communications office work.  No Columbus Day holiday for the provincial house staff.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Homily for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 13, 2013
2 Tim 2: 8-13
Ursulines, Willow Drive, N.R.

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David:  such is my gospel” (2 Tim 2: 8).
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he die, will live" (John 11:25)
It would be hard to find a more succinct summary of the Gospel.  But there’s an awful lot contained in those 11 words.

To take the 2 parts of the statement in reverse order:  “Jesus Christ, a descendant of David.”  That’s almost redundant since Christ in Greek means Messiah in Hebrew, both of which translate into English as “anointed.”  The Messiah is descended from David; hence all those gospel references to Jesus as “Son of David.”  All God’s promises for Israel, all the hopes of the Jewish people come together in this Christ, called Jesus from Nazareth.  The Law and the prophets are summed up in him—remember the famous scene on Mt. Tabor.

2d in my approach but 1st in priority:  “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.”  He’s the Anointed One of God; therefore God raised him from the tomb.  We know he’s the Anointed because God raised him, and as Paul writes to the Corinthians (I, 15:5-8), numerous people are witnesses to this:  they spoke with him, touched him, and ate with him after he rose from the dead.  God’s raising him testifies to the validity of his life and of his preaching.  If he’s alive, when we share the Eucharist we share his living Body and, filled with his messianic life, we start on the road to our own resurrection to everlasting life.

“Such is my gospel,” Paul says.  “This is the good news that I believe and preach.”  It’s good news meant for everyone because Jesus has come to save everyone, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, men and women—save us all from eternal death thru the forgiveness of our sins, thru the possibility of reforming our lives and modeling them on Jesus Christ, who so pleased God that God raised him from the dead and in that act marked him, sealed him, as the perfect model of a man pleasing to God, as a human being who points us in the right direction on the road to life; indeed, as the one Person who thru his twofold nature grabs hold of humanity and escorts us into the kingdom of God.  Since God has certified Jesus’ teaching and activity, we know for certain that we will come to resurrection and eternal life by following him, by being laid hold of by him:  “It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).  “Such is my gospel.”

Paul reinforces what he’s been saying by quoting what seems to be part of a hymn:  “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we persevere, we shall also reign with him” (2:11-12).  Death with Jesus begins with our dying to ourselves thru repentance and conversion.  It may also mean persecution for the sake of the faith, as Paul’s experiencing:  chains (2:9), imprisonment, the possibility of trial, condemnation, and martyrdom.

Certainly, the former form of death is a necessity of the Christian life, a prerequisite of eternal life:  we must repent and be converted from our selfishness and our paganism into Christians, people who walk with Jesus.  The latter form of dying with Christ ever remains a possibility. According to John Allen’s new book The Global War on Christians, 100,000 Christians were killed in the 1st decade of this century for their beliefs.  In this country people are being harassed, sued, and prosecuted for their beliefs about the sacredness of human life, the meaning of marriage, and the integrity of human sexuality.  Cardinal George said, apparently in May 2010, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.  His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.”[1]  This is, perhaps, an exaggeration, but it’s also a reflection of the anti-Christian trend of Western society—and a prediction that the gates of hell shall not prevail over the Gospel.  The Word of God cannot be chained (2:9).

We can combat that anti-Christian trend by preaching Paul’s gospel, and especially by living it with conviction and joy.

        [1] See

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Heroic Virtues of Attilio Giordani, Salesian Cooperator

Vatican Recognizes Heroic Virtues
of Salesian Cooperator Attilio Giordani

(ANS - Vatican City) – At a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, on October 9, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation to promulgate decrees on the heroic virtues of seven Servants of God, including Attilio Luciano Giordani, a layman, father of a family, and Salesian Cooperator. The Vatican announced the progress of these causes on October 11.

Attilio Giordani was born in Milan on February 3, 1913. Son of a railway worker, he got to know Don Bosco at the Salesian oratory in the city. He was an outstanding animator and catechist, and found the resources for a life of grace in the sacramental life, prayer, and spiritual direction.

In over ten years of military service, including during World War II, he witnessed to the faith among his comrades in arms. After the war, he founded the Crusade of Goodness to restore hope to young people.

He married Naomi Davanzo, and they had three children. When the children grew up, they went as mission volunteers to Brazil. Attilio and his wife followed them, and Attilio continued his commitment as an educator and evangelist in Brazil. He died in Campo Grande on December 18, 1972.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Homily for the
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 6, 2013
Luke 17: 5-10
Christian Brothers, Iona College, N.R.

 “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table?’” (Luke 17: 7).

The world of servants and masters was the ordinary world in which Jesus and the apostles lived.  “Servant” here (the Greek word is doulos, the Latin word servus) may include household slaves, youngsters hired out by impoverished parents, other hired persons like housekeepers and field hands, or long term-term employees who were practically members of a great lord’s household:  in more contemporary settings, think of a nanny like Mary Poppins (without the magic of course) or of a gentleman’s valet like Passepartout in Around the World in 80 Days.  (A couple of you may be old enuf to remember when that was a hit in the movies—1956.)  Servants were such an everyday fact that Mary of Nazareth readily described herself to Gabriel as the Lord’s doule, his maidservant, and the gospels are full of stories and references to servants, or slaves, and masters.  One didn’t have to be a great lord to have a servant or two, e.g., a young boy or maidservant or a hired worker.  St. Mark tells us that Zebedee hired men to fish alongside himself and his sons (1:20), altho Mark uses a different noun that means someone hired for pay.

So Jesus references servants and masters in many of his parables.  The passage we heard this evening/morning is a parable—not in the sense of a story like the Prodigal Son, but in the sense of a comparison drawn from life to illustrate a teaching.

He begins by asking a question, to which he expects the answer to be “no one.”  In real life masters don’t treat their servants, much less their slaves, as equals and don’t give them deference.  The master will order this servant to prepare and serve his meal [evidently we’re not talking about a great lord here with many servants, including one just for cooking and serving].

Then Jesus reminds his listeners that this master probably won’t even say “thank you” to his servant.  The servant or slave is doing his job, for which he already receives some sort of compensation—a wage or a place in the household.  Nothing more is owed, nothing more required.  This isn’t how employers treat employees in our culture, at least not if they value company or household morale, harmony, and productivity.  But our culture isn’t very much like that of the ancient Middle East.

Jesus’ point follows:  we are the Lord’s servants.  If we keep his commandments, he owes us nothing.  We’re “unprofitable,” in our New American Bible translation, or “useless” or “worthless” in some other translations, in that nothing further is due to us.  We’re just doing what we’re supposed to do in virtue of our status as creatures or as disciples.

[To the youngsters:  When you pass your tests in school—you do pass them, don’t you?—does your teacher tell you “thank you” for passing?  No?  Why not?  Because it’s what you’re supposed to do.  It’s your job!  Does that make sense?  And that’s sort of what Jesus is saying here about the master and the servant.]

That God owes us nothing jars us.  Aren’t we supposed to be rewarded for obeying God’s law?  Aren’t we supposed to hear something like, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Come, share your master’s joy” (Matt 25:21)?

Well, no!  Who of us would dare to say to God, “You owe me!”  Perhaps if we did indeed carry out flawlessly every last one of the divine master’s expectations of us; if we weren’t sinners who repeatedly display our faithlessness—maybe then we’d be so bold.

But Luke has another parable that offers a very different take on this master-servant relationship, a parable that was part of our gospel on the 19th Sunday of the year (Aug. 11, for those of you keeping score at home).  In that parable, Jesus says that the master who finds his servants watching vigilantly when he returns home “will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them” (12:37).  The master becomes the servant or slave and waits upon his faithful servants who’ve just done their duty by staying alert to welcome him home.
The Footwashing, from the Bible of Tbilisi
Jesus is more than a story-teller in this regard.  We all know/do you remember what he did at the Last Supper, taking on the slave’s role of washing the feet of the dinner guests (John 13:1-15)—to their great shock.  (Peter wanted to refuse to let Jesus wash his feet because it was beneath his dignity.)  And later in that same meal he raised their status from that of servants to friends (15:15), radically transforming the relationship between himself and all who follow him as his disciples.

The wedding banquet is an image used numerous times in the New Testament for eternal life, for the joy and security of heaven.  Each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember that image and foreshadow it.  Indeed, we proclaim, “Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb,” paraphrasing the Book of Revelation, which reads “…to the wedding feast of the Lamb” (19:9).

And at this great feast, the Lamb, the master of the feast, will serve his good and faithful servants.  This service, this reward, however, comes not as something we’ve earned—we are “unprofitable” or “useless “ servants.  It comes as grace!

Our status as unworthy servants was the theme of the Collect today:  God’s abundant kindness surpasses our merits (what do our sins merit?); hence we beg God, “Pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads”—to pardon all the sins that fill us with dread and foreboding when we think about God’s justice.

The only claim we can make before God is, “Have mercy on me, for I am a sinner”—a confession that figures in another parable that Luke recounts, which we’ll hear in 3 weeks (18:13).  That confession stakes no claim to a reward, obviously, but asks for that grace which only the master can give—the master who is abundantly kind and merciful, who calls us into a personal relationship of friendship with himself.

Change in Salesian Montreal

Change in Salesian Montreal

Over the Sept. 27-29 weekend, Fr. Tom Dunne, our provincial, announced to the province and to the people of Maria Ausiliatrice Parish in the Riviere-des-Prairies section of Montreal that the Salesians are withdrawing from pastoral care of the parish.

The SDBs have served in Montreal since 1960, when we assumed responsibility for St. Claire's Parish.  Eventually there were additional pastoral charges.  When Maria Ausiliatrice ("Mary Help of Christians") was first established in the 1970s as a mission for Italian immigrants, we looked after them; when it became a national parish in 1982, we became the pastors and assistants.  According to Fr. Tom, the parish is now one of the largest in the archdiocese of Montreal.
Interior, Maria Ausiliatrice Church, Montreal (Fr. Dennis Donovan)
Within the parish boundaries we also founded the Don Bosco Youth Leadership Centre and set up (in the same building) Canada's mission office (the independent parallel of the office that we have in New Rochelle).  Both the youth center and the mission office have flourished.

But at this point our province can no longer provide the tri-lingual clergy that the parish needs--priests who speak Italian, French, and English.  For years we've been bringing Italian-speaking priests from elsewhere in the SDB world to serve there.

Therefore, with the consent of the provincial council and of the Rector Major, Fr. Tom asked the archbishop of Montreal to take pastoral responsibility for the parish as of Oct. 28.
Don Bosco Youth Centre, Montreal (Fr. Dennis Donovan)
We will remain at the youth center and mission office, so we're not leaving Montreal at all.  We've also offered to assist Maria Ausiliatrice with catechism.  Fr. Tom describes these changes as "a re-focusing on the charism that brought the Salesians to this neighborhood [RDP] from the very beginning.  He said that our "presence will be more sharply focused on the mission to the young and the poor that was at the heart of Don Bosco's gift to the Catholic Church and the world."

In his letter to the parishioners, read at all the Masses last weekend, Fr. Tom thanked them "for the many ways that you have supported and encouraged us over the past almost thirty years," as well as assuring them that the SDBs are still at hand in the neighborhood.